Photos by Donna
Been so busy and so behind I've yet to make this announcement! Tuesday saw the publication of Michael Symon's debut cookbook—Michael's motto and M.O.—Live To Cook! He does indeed, and I'm thrilled to write about it here.
Before I went to the CIA to speak with president Tim Ryan about a book project, I introduced myself to Michael so that I wouldn't be going into the interview blind and stupid. He was friendly and helpful and I spent a couple nights in the tiny kitchen he happened to be working in (it was so small he and his sous chef simply stood in one place and cooked all night long, no room for another soul, nowhere to go).
He quickly made a name for himself there, and by the time his first restaurant, Lola, was a couple years old, he'd received a Best New Chef award from Food & Wine. That award gave him the credibility that allowed me to write about him as one of the three chefs in Soul of a Chef, and there I really got to know him and his wife Liz and the whole family. That was what was so great about reporting that part of the book. Feeling like a part of his big exuberant restaurant family. (Above, he's with April Bloomfield before an SOS dinner at Lola.)
What I admired about him then is on full view in his book which I was honored to help him write: He's an ingenius cook, bringing huge flavors out of common ingredients, and creating complex meals with a simplicity that often made me do double-takes.
His Mac and Cheese (recipe below) is so popular, he can't take it off the menu at his restaurants, there's too much of an outcry when he tries. Takes twenty minutes or so start to finish and is awesome. And he's got the fabulous beef cheek pierogies and other signature dishes in the book.
But why I really love the book? Pig ears. He put his cripsy pig ears technique in here, and they are sooooo good. Will I offer the recipe and technique here? Can't! Gotta buy the book for that one!
Another reason I love the book (and loved writing it): Michael is able to explore his culinary eccentricities, his love of coriander, the bench scraper, his no-knead egg-yolk pasta (for the sheep's milk ravioli, above).
It's a chef's cookbook that doesn't talk down to the home cook but is completely home cook accessible. One of his old cooks said this to me, I've never forgotten it, and it remains true: "You know what I like about Michael's food? It's the kind of food you can do at home." So true. He got a Best New Chef award, and last year Best Chef Midwest from the Beard Foundation, by serving do at home food. That's what I love about his style and the food in this book.
Congratulations, Michael, the book looks fastastic!
Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese and Rosemary
Kosher salt as needed
1 pound dried rigatoni
1 quart cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
8 ounces goat cheese
2 cups shredded roasted chicken
Bring a pot of water to a boil (add enough salt so that it tastes seasoned). While it's heating, pour the cream into a large sauce pan, add the rosemary and a ½ teaspoon of salt and bring it to a simmer, careful not to let it boil over. Reduce the cream by about half. Add the goat cheese and chicken and keep cooking it till the cream coats the back of a spoon.
Cook the rigatoni till it's al dente, about ten minutes. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce till the sauce resumes a simmer, then serve.
Serves 6 to 8